February is the month for... rugby! (Oh, and love)
When you have a work romance, the internal rumour mill can go one of two ways – “Oh, how sweet! Aren’t they adorable?” or “Can you believe it? It’ll never last. What were they thinking?”
Thankfully for us, our Workhuman friends and colleagues were behind us 100%.
So, who do I mean by “us?” And where does rugby fit into the picture?
Us = Lynette Silva Heelan, EMEA consulting practice leader (15 years with Workhuman), and Shane Heelan, global supply chain director (20 years with Workhuman).
And for those not blessed to be in Europe during February, it’s the first month of the annual Six Nations rugby tournament between Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England, France, and Italy. It’s thanks to the 2018 Six Nations that our 10+ year friendship turned into something more. (More on that later.)
Shane joined Workhuman in Dublin when the company was only three years old, a mere toddler of a company still figuring out the processes, architecture, and mechanisms for driving our global-from-the-beginning employee recognition and celebration platform. He was there for the transformation from Globogift to Globoforce to Workhuman, whereas I joined at the Globoforce stage. We were still a small company when I joined, with maybe 30 people in our Boston-area headquarters (my home office) and 50 in our Dublin headquarters (Shane’s home office).
Shane’s team is based in both offices for global rewards delivery, so he was over in the US often and quickly became one of my friends based in Dublin. Over the years as my role with customers in EMEA as well as the US brought me into more frequent contact with Dublin-based colleagues, my Irish friend base grew to include Josephine (Jose), Orlagh, Kieran, Conor, and many more.
And then… the fateful February. I was in Dublin for a customer meeting. Jose knew I liked to extend a visit to Dublin over the weekend for a bit of wide-eyed tourism. She casually mentioned, “Lynette, if you’re staying the weekend, do you want to join me, Shane, and a few others for the Six Nations on Saturday?”
I quickly replied, “Sure! What’s Six Nations?”
(Lynette and Jose at the pub for Six Nations 2018)
Jose patiently explained, and I had a brilliant time in a completely packed-to-the-gills pub (pre-COVID, obviously) for the match. (Pictured: Jose and me at the pub for Six Nations) Confession time – I didn’t really watch as I was too busy chatting with friends and enjoying the general mayhem…and pints of Guinness. Then, walking with Shane from that pub to another, less-crowded location, Irish magic struck. Our usual chats changed to more of a personal focus on everything from life dreams and goals to the types of books we preferred to read. (I’ve never met anyone who reads as eclectically as I do from history to biographies to mysteries to sci-fi to fantasy.)
And then… I had to return to the US. But Shane knew the way to my heart with the best gift – a box of his favorite books I had yet to read. For the next six weeks our long-distance relationship was stuck in What’s App chat mode until we met again at Workhuman Live 2018 in Austin, TX, where we finally had the opportunity to confirm we were, in fact, dating. (Pictured: Shane and me in Austin) I think our colleagues may have been as excited for us as we were, not-so-casually mentioning when they’d spot us holding hands walking between venues. (Though Megan, an Irish recent joiner to the team, did wonder if she was expected to hold hands with colleagues, too, as an extension of the “GloboHug” culture.)
(Shane and Lynette in Austin, TX, for Workhuman Live 2018)
During the next 12 months, we managed to meet up in the US or Europe every few months (including for colleagues’ wedding in Croatia – we’re not the only Workhuman couple!). Then, thankfully, I was able to relocate to Ireland in March 2019, with my first day as a Dublin HQ employee on April 1st, which many say was a very appropriate start date.
That first year in Ireland, pre-COVID, was a blessing and a dream! In addition to many adventures around Dublin and time with friends in the city, we bought what was supposed to be our weekend bolthole/future retirement home on the west coast of Ireland. This spot in Co. Clare is very special to Shane as the location where he and his family vacationed nearly every summer of his childhood. I swear he didn’t show me any of the rest of Ireland before I fell in love with West Clare! (I was sold from the first look at the traditional Irish cottage with foot-and-a-half thick stone walls and a gorgeous fire.) As soon as COVID struck, we headed west and had no better or more beautiful home/home-office through the lockdowns. I’ll always treasure that time for getting to know our neighbors in the west in a way we couldn’t have otherwise.
Prior to COVID, we started planning a big hooley of an Irish wedding for June 2020. (We all know how that turned out.) Sadly, my mother’s leukemia reached an advanced stage, and it was important to me for her to see us marry. With Jose’s help, we managed to elope in September (between lockdowns) to the Giant’s Causeway area in Northern Ireland. Jose, her husband and infant son were our only in-person guests with our family and closest friends joining via Zoom. While not the wedding we’d initially imagined, it was an intimate and deeply meaningful ceremony with those most dear to us. (Pictured: Our zoom wedding) Of course, our colleagues across Workhuman joined in our wedding Life Event on our recogntion platform to congratulate and celebrate with us.
Now, it’s just about the 5th anniversary of that fateful rugby match. In that time, we got married, lived in the glorious west of Ireland, explored many beaches and byroads, and even expanded our little family with two COVID kitties (pictured in front of the glorious fire in the West Clare cottage).
In the same timeframe, Workhuman grew to more than 1,000 employees, became a $1 billion unicorn, and helped more than 7 million people around the world feel more connected to each other, as well as to the meaning and value of their work, through the power of gratitude and appreciation.
And through it all, those close friends at work – here in Ireland and back in the US – made all of it more meaningful. Because without the human, it’s just work.